State of play for inclusive playgrounds

Distance shot of children on a carousel or spinnerLocal playgrounds are enjoyed by people of all ages. They are places where families and friends gather, and where the family dog can take a run. Many types of activities take place in playgrounds and related open space, yet people still think of a swing and a slide and perhaps a climbing frame. Playground design is a skill in its own right, particularly designing for inclusive play areas.

The Touched By Olivia Foundation surveyed over 1000 people of all ages and abilities across Australia and have a summary report of the results. Shade, toilets and car parking were were the important features the survey respondents looked for in a playground besides the play equipment.

Design features that people were looking for were those that allowed creative play, nature spaces, climbing equipment, sensory play – sand, musical and art – chalk, bike and scooter paths, as well as the traditional swinging equipment, slides, see-saws and roundabouts.

If you want to know the thinking that goes into an inclusive playground, you can view an explanatory Vimeo video of the award winning Livi’s Place at Five Dock in Sydney. Landscape Architect Ben Richards explains the design intent and the features that have helped to create the award winning inclusive environment. Ben shows a very good understanding of the many different requirements children might need. While the focus is on children with disability using the playground, it is suitable for all children.

Editor’s note: The survey report, State of Play 2016, is an online flipping book. Unfortunately the document designer has chosen a very light font, but at least you can enlarge the page to get better definition of the text.


Inclusive event and meeting guides

front cover of Accessible Events guide. purple with white writingFully accessible venues can still be difficult to find. Getting in the door and having an accessible toilet is only the start. Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Indeed, while trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use.

Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. However, it appears only to be available to members of the Association and is not visible on their web home page. Nevertheless, a Google search will find the Accessible Events Guide.  The Guide also has a checklist at the end. 

front cover access events vic gov.Free to access guides include the Victorian Government guide and checklist. This one uses easy access English as well, so the guide itself is accessible, and covers the role of MC and speakers. Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.

Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.

Editor’s Note: In my experience, some event operators aren’t aware that they have to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.


Fit Bit for wheelchair users

Picture of a hand on a wheelchair wheel showing a wearable fitness trackerFitness watches, or fitness trackers are selling like hot cakes. But what about wheelchair users? Lack of fitness is just as much an issue for many wheelchair users, especially if they live a relatively sedentary lifestyle. So Apple has come to the rescue. The following item was found on FastCo website:

“Two weeks ago, Apple made a seemingly small announcement at its annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference. Starting in September, the Apple Watch will support wheelchair users, allowing them to track their fitness goals the same as anyone else. But this feature is a big deal to the millions of people around the world who live their lives in wheelchairs. It was also an incredible technical challenge to pull off, requiring Apple to mount the most comprehensive study ever on fitness among wheelchair users, as well as a complete overhaul to the design of its fitness tracking algorithms.”

To read the full article go to the FastCo Design website.



Launceston Play Space Guide

Pirrama Park SpinnerLaunceston Council in Tasmania has published its Play Space Design Guidelines. It covers eleven design characteristics that deliver value in play spaces and these form the eleven sections including one on social inclusion for people of all ages. It also recognises the intergenerational aspects of playgrounds as more grandparents than ever are caring for young children. At 24 pages it is to the point and uses several photographs illustrating the principles and practice in each section. Another great publication to add to the play space resources.

For more resources on play spaces and inclusive recreation, visit the Sport and Recreation section of this website.

Photo is of the inclusive spinner at Pirrama Park in Sydney.


Being a good sport: including everyone

Picture of young women on a netball court.Sporting activities can be both enjoyable and healthy. Consequently, introducing young people to sport and keeping them involved can have long term positive effects. However, young people with disability are involved to a lesser extent. While there are some specialised programs for children and young people, this may not be the way of the future. Susanna Geidne and Kajsa Jerlinder tackle this issue in the latest Sport Science Review journal.  After a systematic search of peer-reviewed articles, they conclude,

“We must go from adapting physical activity for disabled persons to adapting physical activity for all people, because the diversity of people’s reasons for doing sports, their differing backgrounds and their uniqueness all demand it. Such an approach will result in more people doing sports for longer in life, which will benefit everyone, both individually and at the societal level.”

Note: Sport and Recreation Victoria are doing great work on inclusion and have produced a useful handbook.


Barriers to participation in sport

Girl in a swimming race wearing blue cap and gogglesProfessor Simon Darcy, who will be speaking at the UD Conference in August, has co-authored a paper on the barriers to participation in sport. While the article is somewhat technical with statistical analyses, the methodology is a valuable model for researching the barriers encountered by people with disability in other contexts. Needless to say, the barriers were found to be complex, but where physical access is available, the efforts must now go to the customer service and membership side of sport.

Enabling Inclusive Sport Participation: Effects of Disability and Support Needs on Constraints to Sport Participation, by Simon Darcy, Daniel John Lock and Tracey Taylor is published by Leisure Sciences. Those with access to Research Gate can download the full paper.


Universal design in sport and recreation

Design layout for an open space showing pathwaysThe Victorian Department of Sport and Recreation has produced an informative six minute video presented by an architect. It presents the case for universal design in the built environment and showcases what has been achieved by thinking and designing universally.This video is a good reference for explaining universal design to the uninitiated making the point that you don’t have to be a specialist designer to think and design inclusively. 

The website also includes a link to their guide: Design for Everyone: A Guide To Sport And Recreation Settings. The webpage makes the distinction between accessibility and universal design.  “It is separate from accessible design as Universal Design is based on the equitable use of a facility and social inclusion and not the measurement of accessible design features and meeting minimum legislative requirements.”

A previous post featured Camp Manyung and its inclusive design and practice – Victorian sponsored recreational camp.